Director-General of DG MARE, Charlina Vitcheva responds to concerns from the NWWAC regarding the implementation of the Landing Obligation. Photo: DFPO
The Director-General of DG MARE has recently responded to concerns from the North Western Waters Advisory Council (NWWAC) regarding the implementation of the Landing Obligation.
Responding to the NWWAC concerns, Director-General Charlina Vitcheva referred the AC to the Commission’s view that the Landing Obligation, a fundamental aspect of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), was designed to address the issue of discards in the fishing industry. The regulation seeks to minimise unwanted catches by requiring fishers to land all of their catches, thus encouraging more selective fishing practices.
The Director-General noted that several concerns have been raised regarding the practicality and implications of this regulation. She said, the Commission’s response highlights key aspects and considerations related to the Landing Obligation (summarised below):
- Medium-term Benefits: The Scientific, Technical, and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) emphasises that while increasing selectivity may lead to immediate revenue reductions, these short-term losses are expected to be offset by medium-term gains in fish stocks, reduced risk of choke events, and better utilisation of quotas for more valuable catches.
- Exemptions and Conditions: The CFP Regulation allows for exemptions to the Landing Obligation under specific conditions and with scientific justification. Species cannot be added as a general exemption without meeting these criteria.
- Safety and Working Conditions: The CFP Regulation contributes to improving safety and working conditions for fishing operators, emphasising the need for regulations in this regard.
- Mesh Size Specifications: Discussions are ongoing in the North Western Waters Advisory Council (NWWAC) and the North Western Waters Member States Regional Group to define “directed fishing” for relevant species, especially in cases where conditions are challenging to meet due to mesh size specifications.
- Gears and Species Prohibitions: Article 9 of Regulation (EU) 1241/2019 restricts the use of specific gears of static nets and driftnets, with prohibitions applied to certain species. The Commission clarifies that these restrictions are based on gear usage rather than the targeted species.
- Mixed Fisheries and Choke Situations: The CFP Regulation addresses the challenges of mixed fisheries, and efforts continue to identify and manage choke species.
- Socioeconomic Impact: The Commission acknowledges the socioeconomic impact of the Landing Obligation on the fishing industry and highlights ongoing studies aimed at understanding and assessing these impacts.
- Challenges with Implementation: The Commission recognises that weak compliance, undocumented discarding, and misreporting of catches can undermine the accuracy of catch data, impacting reliable scientific advice.
- Upcoming Evaluation: The Commission plans to launch a study in 2024 supporting the evaluation of the Landing Obligation. The study will assess the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance, and added value of the measures in place within the EU, with input from Advisory Councils, Member States, and the Scientific, Technical, and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF).
In conclusion, the Director-Geneal writes:
“The Communication on the functioning of the Common Fisheries Policy emphasizes that continued intense collaboration and exchanges take place and help us reach a better understanding of implementing the landing obligation, showing challenges with its implementation. However, weak compliance, undocumented discarding and misreporting of catches undermine the accuracy of catch data and reporting: impacting the (reliable) data available which is key for scientific advice on fisheries conservation measures; and for an evaluation of the landing obligation that the Commission announced in the abovementioned Communication.
“The Commission is currently preparing the terms of reference aiming to launch in 2024 a study supporting an evaluation of the landing obligation as a means to better inform policymakers on the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and added value of the measures in place in the EU. My services are currently and will be in dialogue with the Advisory Councils, Member States and the STECF, on what key data available could feed into this evaluation, and stakeholder involvement during the study will be of utmost importance.”